This is the race with the $25 First 4 Jackpot and the guaranteed $100 000 pool that the race fixers rorted on Sunshine Sprint night, the 8th of July 2017.
It’s a most peculiar evening indeed because at any given Albion Park meeting an average of 3-4 horses max are scratched for veterinary reasons, but tonight 15 horses are withdrawn from the program, and 7 of them are last minute or ‘late’ scratchings.
This is extraordinary by any basis of comparison but for reasons known only to themselves Stewards launch no inquiry into why so many horses have been scratched on this particular night.
I can suggest a reason.
It might be because instead of there being the usual single vet assisted by two sample collectors running the swabbing program and process, tonight there are a panel of 3 vets and 5 assistants and they are there in those numbers so that they may simultaneously take pre-race blood or saliva swabs from half of the field in each race on the program.
The other reason is that tonight there is a full panel of stewards and it includes both Reid Sanders, the top-line steward who caught the cheats in NSW, and a certain Mr Carter who is by no means friendly with the drug doping members of the race fixing cartel and is likely to rigorously test each of their horses.
Add two and two together and you get four, and what I am saying is that I suspect that a number of the 15 horses scratched, including a number of the late scratchings, had substances in their system that may or may not have passed a rigorous collection, screening and testing process.
Whether it is by design, incompetence or sheer coincidence that the Chief Steward Mr Larry Wilson doesn’t institute an inquiry into what seems the obvious is a matter for you to decide, but I don’t like it, I don’t like it at all.
Anyway, to the fix.
The usual suspects are involved either directly or peripherally – the McMullen clan, Chantal Turpin, the Dixon husband and wife team, and trainers Jack Butler and Stephen Cini – and a number of the 4 legged usual suspects from the previous rorted races are in the line up as well, including Watch Pulp Fiction, Bettabe Perfect, Written in Red, Floyd Mayweather, Exceptional Mach and A Good Chance.
The ones to watch super closely are the two favourites in the betting.
Number 1 Exceptional Mach – trained by Grant Dixon and driven by his wife Trista – is the favourite at $2.60 and is drawn in the coveted pole position on the inside of the front row behind the mobile barrier.
Number 8 Written in Red – trained by Jack Butler and driven by young reinsman Paul Diebert – is the favourite at $2.60 and is drawn directly behind Exceptional Mach on the inside of the second line at the start.
The name of the game is get these two favourites beaten so that the great mass of punters who have put the pair on top in their First 4’s get knocked out, and the dividend for winning ticket holders becomes greatly enlarged.
It’s exactly the same strategy that the fixers have been using in the rigged trifecta races, and the basics of the execution of the plan are put into place in exactly the same way as we have seen previously, which is that the number 1 horse gets crossed at the start by a fast beginning, widely-drawn pacer and this then puts the favourite drawn behind it 3 back on the fence in a decidedly disadvantageous running position that is extremely difficult to win from.
The mobile pulls away and they’re off, and Polished Rocks – driven by Danielle McMullen and wearing number 7, but starting from the 5 position due to the scratching of two horses drawn inside it – flies out the barrier and crosses Exceptional Mach easily.
This is somewhat of a surprise because in it’s previous 4 starts against the identical grade of horses it is racing tonight Polished Rock has started from barriers 5, 4, 2 and 4 from the front row and not once has he burned out of the gate and led, and there is nothing in the stewards report to suggest that the horse’s connections advised of any change of driving tactics in this race.
This matter should later have been inquired into by the stewards, but inexplicably – or not – it wasn’t.
So Polished Rocks shocks and leads, Exceptional Mach sits behind it on the fence in the trailing position, and Written in Red – who is reliant on the horse in front of it to establish its position – sits three horses back on the fence behind Exceptional Mach.
These positions are established in the first 100m or so of the race and the first part of the fix goes exactly to plan, and then nothing happens for the next 1200 metres or so except that the horses run around the track at a stop-start speed that is totally determined by McMullen on the leader because no other horse challenges or pressures her.
That’s part 2 of the race fixers strategy. Tick.
Then we get to the home turn and it all starts happening as the final step of the plan is put into play.
Trista Dixon the driver of the second horse is the one you need to keep one eye on and Wtitten in Red behind her is where your second eye should be fixed. The time you are looking for is about the 1 minute 44 second mark, the point where the inside horses are about to enter the sprint lane.
Right as they come around the turn and hit the straight – just before the sprint lane opens up – Trista Dixon deliberately takes her left foot from the sulky stirrup and kicks her leg loose and free. You can see the leg out of the cart clearly in the picture above and if you watch the replay on slow motion you can also see that it is no accident that Dixon’s foot and leg have come free. She did it intentionally.
There are two reasons that a driver willfully removes their foot from the sulky.
The first is to speed it up.
How this is done is that the driver takes their foot from the sulky, place it behind his horses rear leg and either kicks the leg or places his or her own foot hard against the horses hind leg and uses the natural back/forward swing gait of the horse to put forward pressure on the leg.
The former is known as kicking, the latter nudging, and both have blighted the career of one of America’s greatest drivers in history Walter Case (although not nearly as much attempting to murder his wife; Case controversially returns to the sulky in the US today after a 14 year absence occasioned by his incarceration for that crime).
That’s not what Trista Dixon did. She wasn’t trying to impel her horse forward, she was trying to unbalance it as she steered it sharply into the sprint lane, providing herself with a forward alibi in case the stewards asked any difficult questions.
There are two ways for her to achieve this. One is simply to give the horse an up and under in the guts, the other is to do the reverse of what Walter Cash does and place your foot on the inside of the hind leg so it acts as a brake and/or rudder rather than a kick start forward.
1:44 – Dixon’s leg is in the bike as they round the home turn
1:45 – Dixon kicks her leg free from the sulky’s foot restraints just as the field hits the Albion Park home straight.
Instead of making immediate efforts to get her leg back in the gig Dixon instead swings it back as if she is preparing to kick her horse under its stomach.
We lose sight of Dixon’s leg as the horses enter the straight so it is impossible to know what she does next with her foot.
What Dixon does with her horse though is deliberately steer it across the line of Written in Red behind her so she can baulk that horse as it is about to scoot up the sprint lane inside her.
See how Dixon has moved her horse closer to the inside pegs by about 3/4 of a horse width and the driver behind her has to yank back on the reins and check the momentum of his horse?
That’s exactly what she intended.
Look at the gap between her horse and the leader (the one to your left of her in the white sleeves), and compare it to the gaps between horses racing next to each other back in the field. It’s wider isn’t it?
Eventually Dixon straightens her horse back on a true line and Winning in Red is able to come through the inside of the sprint lane unimpeded, but by then the bird has flown for it is too late for either horse to regain full momentum in time to catch the leader Polished Rocks, and that horse wins the race, with Winning in Red second and Exceptional Mach in third place.
But there is something else red hot going on as well.
See that horse in the blue and white colours on the outside, to your far left?
That’s our old mate Watch Pulp Fiction which is trained by usual suspect Chantal Turpin and is that night being driven by champion NZ driver Dexter Dunn.
It starts to absolutely motor home over then final 100 metres, and is suddenly going so fast that it may well have flown over the top of the horses on its inside and won the race, but for one thing.
At about the 50 metre mark out from the winning post Dexter Dunn realises exactly what I have just told you, but instead of urging his horse out fully to the line like drivers who are trying to win races do, Dunn jerks hard back on the reins and restrains Watch Pulp Fiction just as it is beginning to look like a surprise winning chance.
1:58 – Dunn is driving Watch Pulp Fiction out (above) and it looks like running fourth or fifth, but the horse is going so fast that within the space of a second (below) it looks a rough chance of running over the top of them.
1:59 – so about 30 metres out from the finishing line (in red below, approximate positioning) Dunn stops driving and restrains Watch Pulp Fiction, slowing its finishing momentum.
You can see it clearly from his body position. The drivers of all the horses finishing hard and with a chance of winning or filling a place are urging their pacers forward. Look at their body positions.
It is is only the horses that are spent from a hard run in transit or those that are blocked for a run who are restraining their horses down.
Them and Dexter Dunn.
Courtesy of the Kiwi driver treating Watch Pulp Fiction so gently when he should have been throwing the kitchen sink at it the horse finishes fourth.
The First Four pays enormous on UBET, double what it pays in Victoria despite the Quinella, Exacta and Trifecta dividends being almost exactly the same in both states.
The coup is landed.
The race fixers win.
For now anyway.
But surely the Stewards will have something to say ………